Changing of the guard

October 17, 2016 § 12 Comments

If you haven’t noticed, you will soon: The iconic grass roots race series affectionately known as “CBR” or “California Bicycle Racing” or “Pain in USA Cycling’s Ass” is being run by Jeff Prinz.

That’s right, and you heard it here second if you already noticed Jeff’s name on the latest CBR race flyers. Chris Lotts is no longer the promoter for CBR.

When you look up the word “controversial” in the dictionary, there’s a long entry, about twenty lines long, and at the end it says, “for a complete and thorough definition of the word in all its permutations, see ‘Christopher Lotts.'”

Some of Chris’s dust-ups were epic beyond epic, like the time he took on the entirety of women’s racing, or the time he got into a years-long battle with the Schroeder Iron/BBI riders, or the civil war that erupted when he lost control of the Tuesday racing in Eldorado Park. If you wanted to get into hand-to-hand combat, all you had to do was send him an email or, better yet, a Facebook message giving him advice about how to run his races. Add in a dash of complaining about prize money or the start time for your event and you would quickly upgrade from civil war to nuclear.

But Chris’s most epic act was the slow, drawn-out, 20-year consistent promotion of local bike races right here in our backyard. Like him or hate him, and I always liked him, Chris could be counted on to deliver what he promised, when he promised it, at the agreed-upon price. And to do that he had to fight USA Cycling, the local SCNCA organization supposedly dedicated to helping promoters, the disarray of local bike clubs, the petty bullshit of butt-hurt racers, the risk of bad weather wiping out an entire day’s event, and That Which Defines Every Bike Racer Who Has Ever Lived, i.e. “Gimme Something For Nothing.”

Chris could have made things easier, and he could have made his races more successful, but then he would have had to have been a different person, and a different person wouldn’t have persevered through thick and thin for the better part of twenty years to put on hundreds of fast, fun, local races. As people quickly found when dealing with Chris, save your advice for when you’re the one whose ass is on the line.

Whatever else Chris was, he wasn’t a philanthropist. His races had to turn a buck, and this past year not only revealed the writing on the wall, it was revealed in ten-foot, blood-red letters: Road racing in Southern California is on life support and the ICU nurses are out doing shots and meth in the alley behind the hospital.

SCNCA had a 30 percent drop in race entries for 2016. For any legitimate business, you’d fire the CEO and everyone else, you’d board up the storefront, sell the inventory, and get into a new line of work. It’s easy to point the finger, but it proves what Chris has said for decades. Our organizing body is killing the sport, and the people in charge of developing new racers and helping promoters have failed, because in tandem with the death-spiral of race entries we are also losing races on the calendar.

And what promoter would want to continue in this environment?

Answer: An experienced optimist with a new plan. Folks, I give you Jeff Prinz. He has his work cut out for him, but if yesterday’s CBR Upgrade Races are any indication, there’s life in the ol’ gal yet. He drew 200 entrants and has plans for two more races before year’s end. Not having any of Chris’s baggage, and being open to new approaches, being a proven relationship builder and an experienced bike racer who understands what cyclists want out of an event, Jeff is taking on a huge task but he’s taking it on with the tools to succeed.

I for one plan to support him 100% in his efforts with time, resources, and cash on the barrelhead. I hope you will make the “effort” to make sure he succeeds, if only because, you know, if you’re going to call yourself a bike racer, you really do have to actually race your bike.



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To helmet or not to helmet?

October 16, 2016 § 70 Comments

Friend, icon, writer, advocate for clean sport, and all-around great guy Steve Tilford had a brutal fall this past Friday on a training ride and suffered severe head injuries. Steve was riding without a helmet. The obvious conclusion for many people is, “Wear a helmet.”

I didn’t wear one outside of races until 2005, and that was simply from peer pressure. I had shown up on some First Colony rides outside of Houston without a helmet and people cursed me. This encouraged me to ride with a helmet even less, but each ride I was showered with insults. In part this was because the First Colony riders were jerks, in part it was because they hated getting schooled by an old helmetless dude on a steel bike, and in part it was because of the brutal conformity enforced by road cyclists.

Zero of it had to do with any personal concern for my well being, as the same chumps who derided me for riding without a helmet were the same ones who chopped my wheel, rode erratically, refused to learn basic courtesy or bike handling, and created a road hazard every time they pushed their bike out of the garage.

Eventually, though, I caved, and then it became habit, and the one or two times since then I’ve ridden helmetless it has felt weird and risky and vaguely unsafe.

That’s odd because the data doesn’t clearly show that helmets make cycling any safer or that they reduce injury. I won’t try to engage in the debate (much), but what seems clear is that any safety benefit from wearing helmets is offset by the fact that it discourages riding, which is then associated with a whole host of risks resulting from a sedentary, cager-based lifestyle. I’ll also add that after ten days in Vienna, I saw thousands and thousands of cyclists and hardly any helmets except on the heads of the one or two sport riders I saw buzzing through the city’s streets.

Which brings me to my point, and it’s one I reached while sitting on a bench overlooking the bike path in Redondo Beach one day. While looking at the surfers fall off their boards and, in between sets, the cyclists pedal by, I noticed something. Most cyclists go really slowly. They go so slowly that with few exceptions their heads are going to be plenty fine if they whack the pavement. They’re also going so slowly that the chance of falling is greatly, greatly reduced. And of course there’s good research that shows most helmets do nothing to protect against slow, twisting falls that aren’t strong enough to break your skull but will give you a concussion or closed head injury.

But then there is a much smaller group of riders who are really hauling ass. The speed differentials between the slow riders and the fast ones, when observed from above and several hundred feet away, was amazing. The faster riders, people going over 20 mph, were clearly going to get badly fucked up if their heads came to an immediate stop against the concrete.

Moreover, I thought about how the improvements in equipment have generated a few extra miles per hour for virtually every sport/fitness cyclist, regardless of ability. Standard steel bike speeds of 17-18 mph are now easily eclipsed such that people commonly ride in the low to mid 20’s, and much faster when traveling with a group. This doesn’t even get into the issue of e-bikes, which make it possible to go at speeds that were unthinkable for all but the most elite.

Of course those few extra miles per hour create exponentially greater force on impact, and the low skill sets of the average wanker blasting along the bike path at 24 make collisions inevitable.

While watching the speed differentials of the cyclists I thought about group riding, where the speeds are often so fast, and I have never second-guessed riding with a helmet since. In Steve’s case, he absolutely knew what he was doing. He’s one of the best racers in U.S. history, is experienced, old, and has fallen down more than enough times to know the risks. For whatever reason, he chose to ride without a helmet, as he’s done a billion times before, and this time he got badly, badly hurt.

Heal up, Steve.



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Dick City

October 14, 2016 § 34 Comments

I know it’s not nice to label an entire community “Dick City.” I know there are plenty of people there who aren’t dicks. I know that there are exceptions to every rule.

But when a vocal minority of residents aggressively advocates against protecting those who are most vulnerable, and instead blames the vulnerable and targets them, and when that position is endorsed by the city council, you are officially a city of dicks.

Of course the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch and the NIMBY Snowflakes on the Hill will deny that they are dicks. Instead, they will say, “Wow, you’re such a dick for calling us dicks, you dick.”

And the namecalling will get intense.

However, when I use the word “dick” I mean it in a very technical, specific sense. I’m referring to behavior that advocates, encourages, condones violence against the vulnerable for no reason other than hatred of outsiders. So let me give you some examples of dicks.

Exhibit 1: Shannon Zaragoza (Part One). Shannon is a complete dick. In addition to vociferously opposing BMFUL signage at city council meetings that would protect innocent, tweezly, happy bicyclists who legally use the public roads, she follows them in her 5,000-lb. SUV, taking pictures while she drives and intimidating them as they pedal. This particular cyclist who she has in her crosshairs is a neighbor, someone who has aggressively advocated for the BMUFL signage that was shot down at the last city council meeting. Shannon’s super smart comment is that the cyclist has the right to use the lane but should, you know, stay to the right, yeah, right in the fucking door zone up against that parked car she can’t see because she’s using her phone while driving. You, Shannon, are a dick.


Exhibit 2: Shannon Zaragoza (Part Two). Shannon is a really whiny NIMBY Snowflake on the Hill dick. Why? Read this post and laugh, or cry, or snarl, or barf into your oatmeal. It’s amazing that people think this way. What’s more incredible is that they commit it to print. “Peach and tranquil.” Hahaha! And “HORRORS!” This dick isn’t afraid for the safety of cyclists, she’s afraid her property values might drop down to the wretched gutter of Rolling Hills, a true slum of millionaires if ever there was one, and all because of an increase in vulnerable road users, i.e. bicyclists. You, ma’am, are a dick.


Exhibit 3: Super Roid in RB. This Redondo Beach asshat is the self-proclaimed defender of Dick City from the riff-raff, a/k/a the illegal bicycle gang led by Seth Davidson, the huge gangsta, killa, and intimidating 155-lb. dude. Read Roidster’s marginally literate rant below and ask yourself, “Is this guy a dick?” I think you will have a hard time not concluding that he is. This guy is in fact the absolute definition of a dick: Someone who misrepresents the law and encourages the harassment of vulnerable road users, er, sorry, “Biker Gangs.” You will especially love his appeal to PVE residents to call the cops every time they see a lawbreaker cyclist. Dick!


Exhibit 5: Actual gang members who beat minorities with a baseball bat in a hate crime to commemorate 9/11. Yes, while Roid Rager is pointing the finger at “Biker Gangs” who “cycle illegally,” the honest denizens of Dick City are beating Muslims with baseball bats. This pretty much transcends “dick” and goes deep into “cock” territory.

Exhibit 6: Surfer gang that for decades has terrorize non-residents, erected illegal structures, refused to comply with the California Coastal Commission’s laws regarding access and infrastructure, and that is now the subject of a class action lawsuit. Dicks, dicks, dicks. Little dicks, but dicks nonetheless.

Exhibit 7: Cartoonist Gary Johnson, who twists legal signage into a joke about hitting cyclists. What could be clearer? We will use legal signage that states the law to threaten, harass, and harm you. Plus, hitting people with cars is funny. Super dick.


Now before you send me a nasty comment that winds up in the spam filter unread, let me address your concerns, because I know that you have them.

#1: You, Seth, are the dick.

No. I do not advocate or condone harming vulnerable road users. I don’t advocate or condone harming anybody.

#2. You, Seth, are rude and mean.

No. I am blunt and it hurts your feelings when I identify your despicable behavior for what it is, and do so in unflattering terms. When you advocate or condone violence, distort the law, refuse to take steps to protect the vulnerable, victim-blame, and deny your obligation to take cyclist safety into account when there have been three deaths on the hill since March, you are the one who is rude, mean, and cruel–no matter the “polite” words you use to defend your defenseless behavior.

#3. You are antagonizing our community.

Three people have died. Dick City has refused to implement the basic BMUFL safety signage recommended by their traffic safety committee, outside consultant, and traffic engineer. Back channel “working groups” have failed. I have no obligation to mouth pretty talk while Dick City, led by Super Roids in RB and his shadow Svengali, try to strip us of our rights to legally use the public roadways.

#4. Many residents would support you if you weren’t so aggressive and belligerent.

Ah, so a lone blogger who decries three senseless deaths is the reason that the good citizens of PVE won’t step forward and defend our right to safely use the public roads in Dick City? PVE has a fifty-year history of violence towards non-residents, flaunting state law, and doing everything in its power to keep people out. If residents want to support doing the right thing, they can show up at the city council meetings and voice support for BMUFL signage and sharrows.

#5. I’m afraid of cyclists. You guys are scary.

You are a whiny, cowardly fool who is playing the victim. We are the ones who are terrified, terrified of your cars, terrified of you tailgating us while you text and drive, terrified by the deaths in our midst, terrified by your baseball bats, terrified by your blithe unconcern with anything except your fucking property values, and terrified by your anonymous nutjob behind the PVE hate website, which has now transferred its ire from the city council to vulnerable road users. No cyclist has ever physically threatened any of you, nor would we. We have simply insisted on engaging in the democratic process, and that makes you so mad you can’t see straight.

#6. We’re not putting in the BMUFL signs or sharrows. Please go away.

We’ll continue to use the democratic process to make our demands heard. I hope that you like to sit down for long periods of time and that your blood pressure doesn’t spike when confronted with facts, law, reason, and ethics. We have something called the Brown Act on our side, and we intend to use it.



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The pleasure is in the details

October 12, 2016 § 8 Comments

Our last day in Vienna was awesome.

We spent another day walking, looking, eating, coffeeing …

Glad to have gone but glad to come home.


The couch is strong in this one

October 10, 2016 § 37 Comments

Bicyclists showed up at the Palos Verdes Estates City Council meeting expecting a win. After all, we had everything on our side.

We had facts, law, safety, and a scathing traffic engineer’s report that sliced and diced the arguments of the NIMBYs, the Special Snowflakes on the Hilll, and the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch like so much cheese in a Cuisinart.

We had education, civility, numbers, and a dedication to the process that spoke louder than any overweight, couch-dwelling wanker in a cheap suit whose main method of discourse was diarrhea on antisocial media using various anonymous handles, dynamic IP addressses, and hate mail.

What we didn’t have were the only thing that mattered: Votes.

The city council voted, 4-1, not to install the BMUFL signage that was recommended by their own traffic safety committee, their own traffic engineer, and by everyone who had looked at the issue from the vantage points of fact and law rather than hysterical hatred of “outsiders.”

And if we were surprised, we shouldn’t have been. The difference between politicians and leaders is simple–politicians do what they’re told, leaders exercise judgment to do what is best.

That said, the council deserves credit for already showing leadership on the issue before the NIMBYs turned up the hysteria full blast. Cycists had already won two out of three when the council voted to installl 3-Feet-It’s-the-Law signs over fervent couch potato opposition, and when they voted for a traffic safety master plan in the face of Shannon Zaragosa’s rabid opposition to BMUFL signage. If I’d had her blowing snot bubbles in my face, I might have backed down, too.

And of course the city also had to contend with the advocacy of Garrett Unno, the NIMBY of all NIMBYs. He was effective and did a great job of getting out his message: Delay, do nothing now, what about the residents, let’s wait, we need more information, let’s protect our community and hey, stop signs. The saddest part is that Garrett, an Asian dude, was on the same side of the fence as the racist pigs who sent countless hate comments to this blog, making fun of … Asians.

Thank dog for WordPress spam-blocking, which sends hate mail unread into the e-dumpster, and pity Garrett Unno, who is despised for being Asian and reviled behind his back by racists who sleep on the same side of the couch that he does.

In the short term, it would be silly not to acknowledge that we got badly beaten on a crucial issue, and that it wasn’t even close. The NIMBY-Snowfake-LLBOMC-Racist contingent marshaled their forces, screamed a thousand times louder than their actual numbers, and got what they wanted. I’ve been beaten enough times in enough bike races to know when my ass has been handed to me fair and square, and no matter how contemptible the opposition, they deserve respect for using the democratic process to get what they want.

In the long term, they’ve shown their hand, and it’s a weak one that they are going too play hell holding onto. For starters, the council has couched its opposition to BMUFL signage in terms of cyclists running stop signs. This is great, because it is the epitome of a bad argument: We won’t make the roads safe for cyclists until they stop at stop signs. Stop or die. How nice.

Second, Garrett & Co. has laid down with vile racists who hate them almost as much as they hate cyclists. They will find Mom’s couch to be extremely close quarters. Garrett, shoot me an email and I’ll forward you some of the spew that your friends have to say about those of Asian extraction. These are your pals, pal.

Third, the NIMBY Snowflakes got what they wanted only by virtue of a procedural end-run. The council knew that the residents couldn’t muster the numbers or the commitment of the cyclists, so they created a special “workshop” venue to limit public participation to two hours, screen out non-residents by forcing them to make multiple trips at a time of day when most people are either at work or commuting.

The only time that cyclists had gotten a chance to speak in full, it completely wore down the council. The council figured out that the only way it could win was by silencing dissent, which they did. They also took to heart this moral: Don’t challenge endurance athletes to an endurance event.

This sleight-of-democratic-hand meant that the council wouldn’t have to sit through hours of public testimony and could resolve the whole thing in two brief sessions. And it worked … this time.

The down side to caving in to Unno & Co., and Mr.Men’s Wearhouse is that the city council is about to find out what it means to have every city council meeting attended by 50+ cyclists, each of whom submits a speaking card and speaks his/her full 3-minute allotment about the importance of BMUFL signage.

The other down side to caving to the bike haters and taking a stand on the sanctity of stop signs is that the city council has forced the broader cycling community to recognize the challenge at hand: A vocal minority is going to strip us of our legal right to safely use the roads.

This is a down side–for PVE–of massive proportions because if cyclists realize what’s at stake and actually engage in the democratic processs, it will be the city’s worst nightmare. Every council meeting packed with persistent cyclists who will each get their three minutes, and non-stop meet-ups in PVE where large groups of cyclists will ride single file and stop at every stop sign.

The city is about to find out that its work can be snarled just as effectively as its roads by people who do nothing more radical than obey the letter of the law. You really want every cyclist to stop at every stop sign? Okaaay … but we’re going to need lots of practice.

What’s also funny is that as it crumpled to the forces of evil, the counci somehow forgot how this all came to a head. Yes, it was a protest ride that turned traffic into an unmoving knot and backed traffic up all the way to Torrance. Remember that?

We do!

Of course, we’re at risk, too, and the risk is that the rank and file rider says “I don’t care, gotta get the KOM.” To date most of the heavy lifting has been done and most of the attacks have been borne by about fifty people. Some of the biggest clubs on the Hill and in the South Bay have been thinly represented at best.

Moreover, PVE is creating a blueprint for every other community that wants to strip cyclists of their right to use the public roads. Too busy to get involved? Well, you might want to think again because once PVE brings down the axe, they will be followed by RPV and Rolling Hills Estates. Oh, and Malibu. Anybody remember Malibu?

Congratulations to council woman Peterson for doing what’s right, and shame on the others for caving in to expediency, hysteria, and racism.

Still, the ball’s in our court and the NIMBYs are gloating. Who wants to play?



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October 10, 2016 § 17 Comments

We sat in the cafe, the same cafe my friend first sat in more than forty years ago. “It is just the same,” she laughed. “Well perhaps we are a bit older.”

The small town of Retz is only a few kilometers from the Czech border. The region is filled with vineyards, and Austria’s oldest windmill sits atop the small hill outside of town, where it still grinds corn into meal.

The cafe was warm shelter from the bluster outside, and the display case offered row after row of fresh, homemade pastries and cakes.

Up against the far wall, perhaps ten feet from us, was a long table around which sat nine or ten very old women. They paid no attention to us while noting every detail, and carried on a lively conversation in Pulkautalerisch dialect so thick that after five minutes of forehead-crinkling concentration I could only dimly divine three words. Zucker, total, braucht.

My friend’s sister showed up. She has lived in this small town of 2,000 for more than fifty years and she knew everyone in the cafe. She joined us at our table and ordered coffee.

For some number of hours frozen in time there was nothing but kind conversation, funny stories, reminiscences, and quick updates on happenings around town. The cafe slowly filled up, the occasional cigarette was lit, and the excellent coffee topped with the thickest of whipped cream continued to appear.

From time to time people looked at our small group, anchored with the two women who had been born there and by the one woman’s daughter, herself a local once removed. Eyes met and nods of recognition were exchanged. All would be, could be, should be, must be explained later and in the detail that only denizens of a small town of a former thousand-year empire can make note of and recall.

When we stood to leave the elderly women smiled and briefly broke our exit with the kindest of pleasantries. As we left the kind and patient woman behind the counter thanked us with the warmth that only comes from sincerity and decency.

Our souvenirs were the most amazing and memorable of all; the souvenirs of calmness, placid conversation, being part of small accretions to a lifetime spent in one place, and civility, oh civility. We were interlopers, or rather something much finer and honored and without peer; we were guests.


Clean underwear day

October 7, 2016 § 6 Comments

In an 11-day trip you need three pairs of underwear. Some say you can get by on fewer, and they are right, but not when travelling with a wife. It’s always a great feeling to start the day with a clean pair of underwear, and today is one of those days. It’s also kind of bittersweet (the day, not the underwear) because since this is the last fresh pair you kind of know that the trip is nearing its end.

Then, to make the day really special, I even pulled on my last pair of clean socks. And before alll of that I broke down, shaved, and took a shower. I am ready to greet the queen if she should happen by.

Today is also they day when I decided to nut up and go see the Lipizzaner Stallions. First, though, I have a couple of minor tasks to get through but all should be easily knocked out before breakfast.

  1. Finish the last 200 pages of my current novel.
  2. Memorize all the kanji for Chapter 29, “In China We Do Not Eat With Our Hands.”
  3. Translate the Gutenberg Bible into Pig Latin.

As an alleged cyclist, it is always weird to foreswear two wheels and spend a week getting around on foot. Vienna is an amazing foot city, not least because Ms. WM found a Birkenstock shop where she can get sandals for $65.

Vienna is also an amazing foot city because the area surrounding Hotel am Billigsten is chock full of handcraft stores. For example, there is a store that only sells pepper mills. Yep. They are made from wood, in various shapes, and they all come with a Swiss-made, adjustable grinder, which is shorthand for “it will never break and you can grind pepper the size of marbles.”

You might wonder how a trendy young felllow in an orange scarf, goatee, and designer glasses could pay the trendy rent and the $50,000 espresso machine lease selling pepper mills. The answer is, “They are really expensive,” and “Like deodorant, everyone uses pepper.”

In short, you can walk around Vienna with a convenient map and hit all the trendy places filled with trendy things run by trendy people, but the key word is “walk.” Now then, walking tires you the fuck out and quick. You might not think so when you’re just standing there comparing the cherrywood mill to the maple mill, but after several hours your legs want to fold beneath you like a Donald Trump Presidential Campaign.

But the Viennese are smart people and they have prepared for this eventuality with something callled “coffee shop.” You stagger in, deflate into the chair, then pump yourself up with caffeine so that you can go look at hand-crafted fire logs, each one custom designed by a hipster who reads Marx and personally shapes each log to be artfully tossed into the fire and burned to ashes.

Before long (I’m told) your legs get fit and strong and it’s nothing at all to walk over asphalt and cobbles for six hours. However, we haven’t reached that point yet, although the lone pair of sneakers that came with me are now ready for the dumpster.

Which brings up the most amazing thing of all, aside from the crisp underwear, which is that Vienna thrives on small shops. You know, like America once did before people realized that small business is for suckers, and that the best societies are ones where small people get ground up by billionaire concerns that sell stuff imported from China and etc.

It has been weird to go into shops where the proprietor has a real stake in his success. For example, the pepper mill dude, whose shop opened at ten, ushered us in even though it was nine when he saw what appeared to be potential suckers. Or the lady in the organic cafe who smiled and talked about each food item with knowledge because she viewed each customer as *GASP* a potential repeat customer whose patronage would affect her bottom line.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that minimum wage, no future jobs in big box retailers are bad or that we should have communities where individuals own their own businesses, support their own communities, and have a stake in the outcome.

But I am suggesting that if you take an 11-day trip to Vienna, it might be a good idea to bring a solid pair of walking shoes and maybe, just maybe, a fourth pair of clean undershorts.